2021 left an indelible mark on the families of the Las Tunas region, although its start promised a different scenario, or at least that is what many thought. The lethal disease showed its darkest side in this Cuban province because although the previous year had already given clear indications of its danger, there were not so many contagions or deaths here.
The SARS-CoV-2 did not miss even the slightest carelessness to sneak into homes, and we could say that the pandemic left the news to become a reality too close and painful.
The appearance of more infectious variants, the failure to comply with biosecurity measures, and also the undeniable physical and mental exhaustion after a year of constant confrontation with the pandemic put our population in the spotlight. The numbers of sick people began to set off the alarm bells, the experiences came as a kind of bombardment to the collective tranquility, and those involved could not save themselves, in the best of cases, from stress, fear, and tension.
In more than 200 days of the year, 96 or fewer cases were reported, and in less than 10 days, significantly high numbers of new positives: over 500. This confirms that the evolution of the pandemic during 2021 cannot be evaluated only from the globality of its 365 days, but in how it escalated in the first 10 months of the year and then showed a clear decline.
According to Dr. Aldo Cortés González, deputy director of the Provincial Center for Hygiene, Epidemiology, and Microbiology (CPHE, by its Spanish acronym), the incidence of the disease showed a progressive increase from one month to the next. "From May onwards we began to suffer the onslaught of the variant identified in South Africa of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and between June and July the delta also appears, both of high transmissibility, and this generated the explosion of cases."
The July-August-September quarter accounted for 74 percent of all those diagnosed during the year. With its 13,484 cases, September went down in history as the worst among its peers in terms of new positives detected; so much so that one out of every three new patients registered here in 2021 was diagnosed during that month. It also held the record for the most cases reported in one day: 867 (September 9).
Territoriality also confirms how diverse the scenarios can be in each of the demarcations. The pandemic peak in Las Tunas was delayed enough to conclude the 2020-2021 school year in General Education. Consequently, last November 15, the 2021-2022 school year could begin. This is a luxury that some areas of the province of Cienfuegos can boast exclusively.
If until around August 31 the provincial capital remained the epicenter of the fight against the coronavirus, concentrating more than two-thirds of the sick people notified in August, for example, as of September this panorama began to change steadily. The year closed with the highest incidence rates in the municipalities of Jesús Menéndez, Puerto Padre, Majibacoa, and Manatí, in that order; while in Jobabo, "Colombia" and "Amancio" concluded with zero or very close to zero rates.
Statistical records are unequivocally indicating the severity of the pandemic throughout 2021. Of the more than 39,000 patients confirmed since the first one was detected in March 2020, more than 99 percent were diagnosed in 2021; as well as the deaths certified by Covid-19, the largest proportion of which (99.3 percent) we mourn in the year just concluded.
There were not a few of our fellow citizens who experienced the eternal pain of the loss of fathers, mothers, grandparents, siblings, children, friends...; heartbreaking stories that shake and shudder in the deepest part of our hearts. During this situation, gratitude grew towards those who, from an isolation center, a hospital, a doctor's office, knew how to fight against the lethal virus and defend life even when medicines and supplies were scarce.
"That the province of Las Tunas will end 2021 with more than 91 percent of its inhabitants fully vaccinated against Covid-19 has been the result of the efforts, first of all, of Cuban scientists, health personnel, and also of the different sectors and organizations. We are very proud of the dedication and love they have put into this mission," said Nilvia Agüero Batista, head of the Committee of Experts responsible for the process.
Undoubtedly, the Cuban vaccines gave us back hope and made the light closer at the end of the road. Here, more than 456,950 inhabitants of Las Tunas have completed the immunization design of "Soberana 02," "Abdala," and "Soberana Plus."
While the Pharmaceutical Industry advances in the production of immunogens to face the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, in this provincial capital the anti-Covid-19 booster doses are already being applied to patients admitted to nursing homes, the Psychiatric Hospital and the Psycho-pedagogical Center, as well as to other residents.
In the calendar, there was no lack of solidarity demonstrations, both from the sectors that contributed with material and human resources and from the peasants who donated food to health institutions, all the people to put an end to the pandemic. The humanistic embrace of the health personnel of Las Tunas also reached other nations and provinces of Cuba, those who knew how to win the admiration inside and outside our borders.
"Mass vaccination and multi-sector work in the fight against Covid-19 allowed us to contain the transmission," said epidemiologist Cortés González. However, as long as positives are reported in the province, the risk is still present, so we must not neglect the new codes of life.
It was a year of intense work and also of many lessons. Although 2022 starts with a favorable epidemiological situation, similar to that of 2021, vaccines now offer us the advantage. Let's take advantage of it!